Founders and staff at Solihull-based FootFall are to share more than £14 million after selling the company to credit-checking giant Experian for £36 million.

Chief executive John Gallagher and retired co-founder Brian Barnes will be the main beneficiaries.

FootFall is 40 per cent owned by them and their staff. A consortium of private equity firms own the rest of the shares.

Founded in 1991, Solihullbased FootFall uses video cameras to count how many people are out shopping.

As well as monitoring the high street, it gauges shopping centres, town centres and transport interchanges, operating in 11 countries including

Spain and Hong Kong. The Retail FootFall Index it provides is regarded as the industry standard benchmark for shopper visits.

FootFall customers include nine of the top ten retail property companies as well as many of the UK's biggest retailers, including Marks & Spencer and Next.

As well as being valuable to retailers, the Bank of England uses the Retail FootFall Index as an indicator of consumer confidence when determining interest rate movements.

Mr Gallagher, who will stay with the firm, said Experian was chosen from around a dozen potential suitors.

"I'm very excited about the deal," he said.

"We chose Experian because it fits well with what we do and our working culture. It also gives us an opportunity to present to large retailers such

as Argos and Homebase who have worked with Experian."

FootFall will retain its structure after the sale and continue to operate out of its Solihull headquarters.

"Our home is the Midlands and I do not see us moving out," Mr Gallagher said.

"The only changes likely are an expansion of our offering overseas and a ten per cent increase in staff across the entire business."

FootFall currently employs around 70 staff.

Experian said the company would form part of its business strategies division and would complement information it already provides to retailers.

The firm, which has 12,000 staff in 31 countries and more than 50,000 clients, already supplies a range of services to retailers. These include local economic forecasts, retail site availability, details of town

plans and profiles of catchment areas.

Managing director of the division, Charles Burton, said the acquisition would enable Experian to offer "a complete retail property solution". "The acquisition strengthens our position further in both the property and retail sectors," he said. "In turn, FootFall can capital-ise on our strengths throughout Europe and Asia to develop their pan-European and Asian retail and property offering."

Experian is the financial arm of retailer GUS, which paid £275 million for US-based online price comparison service in December.

Meanwhile Footfall has warned that retailers suffered a tough second half of the year as high consumer debts and the impact of the July bombings in London hit shopper

confidence. In its latest survey of shopper numbers, FootFall said visitors to major retail centres climbed by 1.07 per cent in 2005 compared with the previous year.

However, a rise of 4.13 per cent in the first six months gave way to a fall of 3.06 per cent in the second half.

"Overall, 2005 saw higher numbers of shoppers on the high street than in 2004, though this camouflages what was a challenging second half of the year for most retailers," said Natasha Burton, FootFall marketing manager.

"Concerns over existing debt levels and the shock to consumer confidence resulting from the July terror attacks combined to sour what was a positive start for the sector in 2005."